100 Natural Outback Landmarks
Australia's geology is as old as the earth itself. The following list is a series of natural deviations created by land shaping events that include earthquakes, subterranean upheavals, volcanoes, meteorites and erosion - both wind and water driven.
It's these anomalies in the landscape that arouse our interest - waterfalls carved by billion year old rivers, clefts and craters in mountain sides or rock faces eroded into unusual forms.
Australia is large and getting around to these natural landmarks takes some serious travel. Some can be found near towns and cities while getting to others may involve days of desert travel or even a boat cruise or helicopter ride. The natural 'wonders' listed below are just a sample of what's on offer and there are many more scattered about Australia. Where you find one you often find more as the events that formed such an oddity usually occur throughout a region rather than a particular point on earth. It's for this reason that much of the environment surrounding these landmarks is often worth investigating.
1. Karijini - W.A.
A series of interconnected subterranean gorges with each being a unique descent into a 2 billion year old chasm. From crystal clear rock pools, sheer rock cliffs and flora reminiscent of the finest Japanese gardens.
2. Morning Glory Cloud - Qld.
A roll cloud moving at 60kph and towering 2km high. It can stretch 1000km across the Gulf of Carpentaria and brings hang gliders and gliders to Burketown to 'surf' this natural daybreak phenomenon.
3. Olgas - N.T.
36 domed monoliths break the central Australian landscape. Known as Kata Tjuta to the local Anangu aboriginal people who have a special relationship with the rocks that dates back 22,000 years. .
4. Twelve Apostles - Vic.
These limestone stacks are formed by constant erosion and are beautifully framed by the Great Ocean Road which meanders past their white sand beaches, sheer coastal cliffs and clean blue waters.
5. Cradle Mountain - Tas.
Part of a World Heritage National Park Cradle Mountain showcases Tasmania's rugged natural beauty and is offset by mountain lakes, old growth rainforest, canyons and waterfalls. Spectacular.
6. 3 sisters - NSW.
3 jagged rock formations use the valleys of the Blue Mountains as a picturesque backdrop. According to local aboriginal legend three sisters were turned into stone to protect them from impending harm.
7. Great Barrier Reef – Qld.
The world's largest coral reef is actually over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays that stretch 3000km along Queensland's coast in a kaleidoscope of vivid colour, abundant marine life and spectacular underwater gardens.
8. Mount Augustus – W.A.
A rock monolith 2½ times bigger than Uluru looms from the stark Gascoyne region of the Western Australian landscape. A taxing walk in often blistering temperatures reveals aboriginal rock art and a panoramic view.
9. Wilpena Pound - S.A.
This natural amphitheatre of mountains was once used as a corral for horses and today forms part of the outback mecca that is the Flinders Ranges. At nearly 9000 hectares 'the pound' is a bushwalkers and photographers delight.
10. Big Red – Qld.
Big Red or the aboriginal word 'Nappanerica' either signals the start of an epic Simpson Desert trek or a test of off-road driving skills. This long, 40 metre high sand dune has long been a focal point for desert travellers.
11. Nelsons Falls – Tas.
Just out of Queenstown and only 30 metres tall Nelsons Falls makes up for what it lacks in majesty in sheer prettiness. Fern lined rainforest and moss covered rock line a short walk into this Wild Rivers National Park.
12. Crater Bluff – N.S.W.
The remnants of an ancient volcano system are just one of many unusual peaks that jut from the Warrumbungle Range and provide opportunities for bushwalkers, photographers and rock climbing enthusiasts.
13. Bruny Island Sea Caves - Tas.
Getting to these hidden sea caves involves a stunning cruise along some of Australia's most majestic sea cliffs, passing other notable coastal extrusions and usually encountering a host of wildlife.
14. Skull Rock – Vic.
Officially named Cleft Island this domed, hollowed outcrop was responsible for the sinking of the ship 'Kanowna' and creates an imposing beach side stance at the edge of Wilsons Promentory.
15. Uluru - N.T.
Also known as Ayres Rock and responsible for a thousand bad postcards, Uluru is THE iconic image of the outback and looms large over the flat, red, spartan landscape.
16. Pinnacles – W.A.
Odd limestone formations in the Nambung National Park stand like sentinels on a sand-strip of the Western Australian coast. These eery pillars contrast against the wind driven sands and result in the Pinnacles Desert.
17. Admirals Arch - S.A.
More than just a dramatic rock arch with pristine ocean waters as a backdrop, Admirals Arch lies on Kangaroo Island in the Flinders Chase National Park and offers a chance to get close and personal with the wildlife.
18. Wallaman falls - Qld.
The highest single-drop waterfall in Australia is set in some of the oldest rain forests on earth and is home to a host of endangered flora and fauna as well as providing a place of spiritual meaning to local aborigines.
19. Hanging Rock - N.S.W.
Not the famous movie but an imposing overhanging block of sandstone that pokes it's authoritative nose into Grose Valley, and offers dazzling views through the gorges and cliff faces.
20. Federation Peak - Tas.
Not just another excuse to spend more time in the Tasmanian wilderness, Federation Peak is one of the toughest bush walks in Australia and rewards with remarkable views and a sense of accomplishment.
21. Kings Canyon - N.T.
Red rock cliff faces shelter and line a surprising collection of palms, ferns and cycads. It's a refuge for flora that seems to have no place in the rugged arena that is central Australia.
22. Horizontal Waterfalls - W.A.
Part of the Kimberley coastline - pristine, remote and ancient, these 'falls' are a land gorge where the massive tides rush through and create an awe inspiring display of the oceans power.
23. Petes Pillars - S.A.
Tucked away in the Gawler Ranges on Mt. Ive station are a series of red 'Organ Pipes' - rhyolite columns created by volcanic activity some 1600 million years ago.
24. Mount Kosciouszko - N.S.W.
Not every continent or country affords you the achievement of summiting its highest peak but Kosciouszko at 2228 metres offers most people the chance to stand on top of Australia and suck up the view.
25. The Balconies - Vic.
Two sandstone rocks protrude from a cliff face in the Grampians National Park and provide unsurpassed views over the Victoria Valley, Victoria range, Serra range, Lake Wartook and the Mount Difficult Range.
26. Gosses Bluff Crater - N.T.
145 million years ago a meteorite slammed into the plains below the Macdonnell Ranges and created a circular pit 5km in diameter with uplifted walls reaching 180 metres. The impact has left a dramatic imprint.
27. Bungle Bungles - W.A.
Remote, unique, timeless. Purnululu National Park has more to see than the remarkable striped domes. Chasms, gorges, palm-lined creeks and spectacular lookouts reward the inquisitive bushwalker.
28. Remarkable Cave - Tas.
Access is via the beach where once inside the cave forks and offers a second entrance. Rough weather sees the cave lashed by the churning seas while a walkway provides a drier view of this 'remarkable' tunnel.
29. MacKenzie Falls – Vic.
Another highlight from the Grampians National Park, MacKenzie flows year round and can be viewed from above and below the falls. This area showcases other smaller waterfalls all in a typical Australian bush setting.
30. Lake Eyre – S.A.
Once a giant inland sea, today Lake Eyre is usually viewed as a dry salt bed with spectacular desert views. Complete flooding may be a once in a lifetime event that sees an ecological transformation into a major bird breeding event.
31. Burning Mountain – N.S.W.
Otherwise known as Mount Wingen this hillock doesn't provide stunning views or towering majesty. Instead a 6000 year old coal seam burns beneath the surface making the smoking ground too hot to walk on.
32. Ningaloo Reef – W.A.
Supporting 500 species of fish, 600 varying molluscs and 300 different corals Ningaloo is a pristine cornucopia of colour and life. Less exploited than the Barrier Reef it displays an influx of whale sharks, dugongs, manta rays and humpback whales.
33. Devils Marbles – N.T.
'Karlu Karlu' to local aboriginal people is a conservation reserve of some 1800 hectares. Strewn with granite boulders of varying size the balancing rocks have long been a recognisable symbol of the outback.
34. Undara Lava Tubes – Qld.
Undara is just one of a series of volcanoes, vents and cones. 190,000 years ago lava erupted from Undara and created a network of tunnels or 'tubes' up to 160km long. Some have become residence to large colonies of bats.
35. Balls Pyramid – N.S.W.
20km southeast of Lord Howe Island stands a solitary peak that towers impressively above the Pacific Ocean. It is all that remains of an ancient volcano and the 562 metre peak has become a de facto symbol for Lord Howe Island.
36. Blue Lake - S.A.
Really a crater in an extinct volcano, in the summer Blue Lake changes colour to a vibrant cobalt blue before transforming back to steel grey in the winter. The lake also supplies the drinking water to Mount Gambier.
37. Jewel Cave – W.A.
Underneath the magnificent Karri forests of the southwest lie a series of caves. Jewel cave is a spectacular quad of cavernous chambers and showcases some of the largest straw stalactites on earth.
38. The Lost City – N.T.
One of 3 'Lost Cities' in the Territory this one in Limmen National Park contains unusual silica towers that suggest an ancient Aztec surrealism but in reality were an important part of local aboriginal culture.
39. London Bridge – Vic.
Photos can't do justice to the remarkable Victorian coastline alongside the Great Ocean Road. London Bridge is another natural oddity perched along this coast and stands as a testament to the power of erosion.
40. Totem Pole & Candlestick - Tas.
The Tasman Peninsula is cleaved from dolerite and granite and the sheer cliff faces of Cape Huay have become popular rock climbing venues. The Totem and Candlestick are powerful examples of dolerite sea stacks.
41. Barron Falls – Qld.
A major Cairns attraction, Barron Falls is accessed by the Kuranda mountain train. A magnificent sight in the dry season that becomes a thunderous spectacle as the wet season sets in.
42. Kalbarri Gorge – W.A.
Kalbarri offers more than a breathtaking coastline, rugged reef system or beautiful sand inlet. Kalbarri Gorge has been carved by the mighty Murchison river and displays intricate formations in the banded rock.
43. Abercrombie Caves – N.S.W.
The history surrounding Abercrombie Caves is as interesting as this limestone cave complex itself. The 'Archway', 'King Solomons Temple' Cathedral Cave' and 'Bushranger Cave' all have a story to tell.
44. Painted Desert – S.A.
Mount Arckaringa is the jewel that rises from this desolate moonscape. Richly coloured natural ochres with hues of yellow, oxide red and rich browns infuse with stark whites and blacks. An artists paradise.
45. Jim Jim Falls – N.T.
A trickle in the dry season that becomes a powerful spectacle in the 'wet'. Jim Jim is set in a classic Kakadu backdrop but is only accessible part of the year. See the falls from air or arrive by land at the very start of the viewing season.
46. Gippsland Lakes – Vic.
600 square kilometres of lakes, marshes and lagoons create a diverse river-delta network. Containing six major lakes and six major river systems the Gippsland Lakes are also an important bird refuge.
47. Mount Hypipamee Crater – Qld.
A cylindrical volcanic pipe 60 metres in diameter encases a crater lake some 75 metres deep. In the heart of the Atherton Tablelands the high altitude rainforest of Mount Hypipamee also supports a diverse ecosystem.
48. Walls of China – N.S.W.
Mungo National Park hosts a wealth of interesting geographical, aboriginal and archeological sites. The Walls of China are a series of lunettes and contain aboriginal artefacts dating 45,000 years.
49. Chambers Pillar – N.T.
A lone, banded sandstone column erupts from the Central Australian panorama. Eroded over 340 million years Chambers Pillar catches the suns rays at dawn and dusk to put on a show of outback colour.
50. Valley Of The Giants – W.A.
A forest of 400 year old Red Tingle trees or eucalyptus jacksonii
stand sentinel upon the hills of southwest Western Australia. Unique to the region these monsters are reminiscent of the giant Sequoias of the U.S.
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